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PREVIEW: 2023 DP World Tour – Ras al Khaimah Championship

Damien Kayat previews the 2023 edition of the DP World Tour’s Ras al Khaimah Championship taking place at the Al Hamra Golf Course in the UAE.

Nicolai Hojgaard - DP World Tour
Image: EPA/ALI HAIDER

Damien Kayat previews the 2023 edition of the DP World Tour’s Ras al Khaimah Championship taking place at the Al Hamra Golf Course in the UAE.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2022/2023 DP World Tour
Ras al Khaimah Championship
Al Hamra Golf Course, Ras al Khaimah, UAE
2nd-5th February

Are you not entertained? You are going to have to go a long way to find a more dramatic event this season than last week’s Dubai Desert Classic.

Honestly, it was the stuff of Oscar scriptwriting glory. With the DP World Tour soon discovering the result of their arbitration against LIV golfers, Rory McIlroy battled it out with old nemesis Patrick Reed in a duel for the ages.

This was a blistering reunion of their epic 2016 Ryder Cup singles match (which the burly Texan narrowly edged). And it started in melodramatic fashion, with McIlroy refusing to acknowledge Reed on the practice range.

Reed proceeded to throw a tee in McIlroy’s direction (in a gesture that has become colloquially known as tee-gate).

Ras al Khaimah Championship

Ultimately, it was McIlroy who held off a charging Reed to take a one-stroke victory and win his 15th DP World Tour title. After the Hero Cup and two epic Rolex Series events, the DP World Tour moves to the somewhat less illustrious closing leg of this swing: the Ras al Khaimah Championship.

This will only be the second renewal of this event. Last year’s Ras al Khaimah Championship was one by the mercurial Nicolai Hojgaard. But last year’s event was followed a week later by the Ras al Khaimah Classic- won by Ryan Fox.

Both events were low-scoring affairs and both were hosted at this week’s venue: Al Hamra Golf Course.

Al Hamra Golf Course

Designed by Peter Harradine, Al Hamra also hosted three Challenge Tour events between 2016 and 2018. This course is really a continuation of the type of challenges we have been facing this last month (the desert landscapes and exposed fairways almost start to blend into one after a while).

Neither Hojgaard nor Fox were particularly straight when capturing success here (ranking 72nd and 60th for driving accuracy respectively). But both ranked inside the top 10 for driving distance.

This is certainly a course that can be overpowered, with a host of drivable par 4’s and very gettable par 5’s. So, look for players with a strong tee-to-green game.

As ever, you must show respect for course form and suitability to desert conditions.

The Contenders

As I alluded to earlier, the absence of ‘Rolex Series’ from this event’s title does detract from the glitz and glamour. I’m not sure how I feel about Victor Perez.

The Frenchman sits third in the current Ryder Cup standings courtesy of his spectacular victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. But he faltered in contention last Sunday, shooting a poor 3-over-par to finish well down the pack. Will he have it in him to go low again this week (even in this caliber of field)?

Adrian Meronk and Ryan Fox have become consistent presences atop European leaderboards while the Hojgaard twins are arguably the most naturally talented players in the field.

Also, look out for Padraig Harrington. The venerated Northern Irishman finished solo fourth at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship (though he was cut at last week’s Dubai Desert Classic).

Past Winners

2022: Nicolai Hojgaard (-24)
2022: Ras al Khaimah Classic- Ryan Fox (-22)

To Win Outright:

Victor Perez 18/1 | Adrian Meronk 18/1 | Rasmus Hojgaard 20/1 | Ryan Fox 20/1 | Nicolai Hojgaard 25/1

Value Bets

Callum Shinkwin- To Win 45/1 | To Place 19/2

Ok, Shinkwin didn’t exactly set the course on fire with his two Am Hamra finishes last year (21st and 25th). But there’s enough there to suggest that he could rip it up here if he arrived in real form. And he has, finishing fourth at last week’s star-studded Dubai Desert Classic. He is a tremendous driver who has the capacity to overpower this setup. His putting has also improved considerably (though that’s neither here nor there this week). I think he has it in him to win his third DP World Tour title.

Adri Arnaus- To Win 45/1 | To Place 19/2

Adri Aranus won the 2018 Challenge Tour Grand Final staged at Al Hamra. Alongside Nicolai Hojgaard and Ryan Fox- winners here last year- Arnaus ranked inside the top 10 for driving distance in 2022. He claimed his first title at last year’s Catalunya’s Championship but his season really petered out towards the end. But he has still showed up in desert conditions, finishing ninth at the DP World Championship and 13th at last week’s Dubai Desert Classic. He has eight top 15’s in 16 Middle-East starts on Tour.

The Man to Beat- Nicolai Hojgaard- To Win 25/1  To Place 11/2

I’m loving the look of defending champion Nicolai Hojgaard (especially at this price). He is a volatile player and I can understand someone’s reticence in banking him. But he arrives here in really decent form. He has two top 10’s in his last three starts. And he really should have finished 16th last week, triple-bogeying the par 5 18th on Sunday to plummet down the leaderboard. His tee-to-green game is looking exceptional and I think he could really draw on positive memories this week.

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